US Navy commissions expeditionary sea base Hershel “Woody” Williams

The expeditionary sea base USNS (later USS) Hershel "Woody" Williams during mine countermeasures equipment testing in Chesapeake Bay on September 15, 2019 (Photo: US Navy/Bill Mesta)

The US Navy commissioned its fourth Montford Point-class expeditionary sea base (ESB), USS Hershel “Woody” Williams, on Saturday, March 7.

The vessel was delivered to the navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC) in February 2018 and had been predominantly crewed by civilians. Following its commissioning on Saturday, the ESB will operate as a warship under international law with an all-navy crew and the “USS” in place of the “USNS” prefix (USS Lewis B. Puller, the third Montford Point-class ship, is the only other ESB that operates as a warship with an all-navy crew.).

The ESB is the first ship to bear the name of US Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer Four Hershel Woodrow Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient recognised for heroism at the Battle of Iwo Jima during World War II.

Hershel “Woody” Williams was built by General Dynamics NASSCO to support a variety of maritime-based missions and is designed around four core capabilities: aviation facilities, berthing, equipment staging support, and command and control assets. ESBs can be enhanced to meet special operations force missions through increased communications, aviation, and unmanned aircraft system support.

The vessel has an aviation hangar and flight deck that include four operating spots capable of landing V-22 and MH-53E equivalent helicopters, accommodations, work spaces, and ordnance storage for an embarked force.

The platform will also provide unmanned aviation vehicle operations, enhanced command and control, communications, computers, and intelligence capabilities to support embarked force mission planning and execution. The reconfigurable mission deck area can store embarked force equipment including mine sleds and rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIBs).

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